The Big Apple may be a sexy and sophisticated destination, but there are also lots of fun things to do in NYC with kids. So, if you’re visiting New York as a family, you’ll have plenty of activities to choose from!
Before we begin, I’d like to point out that if you’re arriving from the airport (JFK, LaGuardia, or Newark), you can book a private transfer to your hotel instead of dealing with all your family luggage by yourself. They even provide children’s car seats that your family may need (just request them on the “comments for the supplier” section).
Also, if your family wants to visit the most famous attractions in the city, check out the many New York attraction passes available. They will help you save a lot of money! If it’s your first time in NYC, I especially recommend the New York Pass. It includes over 100 attractions, including the Big Bus Tour, one of the best hop-on hop-off bus tours in NYC, which is perfect for families with small kids because you can visit the most popular places and avoid some of the crowds. Plus, if the kids get tired, just enjoy the views from the open deck. It’s much more convenient than using the subway!
That said, I’m going to share the 15 best things to do as a family in NYC, so keep reading!
1. Central Park, a beautiful place to visit in NYC with kids
Visiting Central Park is one of the best things to do in NYC, and it happens to be a top NYC attraction for families, too. Central Park is huge, so it helps to know what you’re going to do here before you arrive.
Some popular things to do in Central Park include the Butterfly Gardens at North Meadow and the Michael Friedsam Memorial Carousel near East 65th Street. You could also check out the nature observatory at Belvedere Castle, the rowboat rentals at Loeb Boathouse, Lasker Pool, or Wollman Rink. Also, there are 21 playgrounds scattered throughout the park, with Heckscher Playground being the most popular. It’s the oldest playground in Central Park and is located between 61st and 63rd Streets.
Central Park tours are included in the New York Pass, but you can also take this guided bike tour or rent a bike and explore on your own. Moreover, if you’re looking for other kid-friendly parks in NYC, check out Prospect Park, Little Island, or Bryant Park.
2. Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, something fun to do in NYC as a family
Another popular family attraction in New York is the Statue of Liberty. While you can see it from Battery Park and other spots in Manhattan, it’s way more exciting to cruise past it!
I recommend taking a Statue of Liberty tour like the one in the New York Pass, or this one, which goes to Liberty and Ellis Islands. First, Liberty Island is home to Lady Liberty and the Statue of Liberty Museum, which contains the statue’s original torch. Ellis Island is only accessible by ferry and is best known for processing over 11 million immigrants between 1892 and 1954. Along with its views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island also has an immigration museum and hospital.
Both Liberty and Ellis Islands are interesting attractions in NYC for families, but if you don’t want to take a tour, you can ride the Staten Island Ferry, which is free and sails past the Statue of Liberty.
3. One World Observatory & other NYC observation decks for kids
As long as they aren’t terrified of heights, visiting one of NYC’s best observation decks is a great thing to do in New York City with kids.
One of the most stunning decks is the One World Observatory at One World Trade Center, one of the most famous buildings in NYC. The observation deck is 1,268 feet tall and takes up three stories. Witnessing the city from 100 floors up is quite the experience, as you can see all of Manhattan from a birds-eye view. You can get One World Observatory tickets in advance, but while you’re here, you might as well check out the 9/11 Museum with this combo ticket.
Speaking of observation decks, it’s also worth visiting the Empire State Building’s top floor observatory and the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center, which provides 360° views. Plus, all of these observatories are included in the New York Pass.
4. Coney Island, the best place to visit in New York City as a family
If you’re visiting the city during the summer, then you must go to Coney Island, as it’s one of the best things to do in NYC for kids and kids at heart.
Coney Island is in the southern part of Brooklyn, so it takes a bit of time to get there, but it’s worth the wait! Not only does this place offer all kinds of fun things to do outside of NYC, but it’s an iconic landmark with lots of history. It has been a seaside haven since the mid-1800s, thanks to its public parks, family-friendly NYC beaches, and amusements.
Be sure to visit Luna Park and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, which have over a dozen kiddie rides and carnival-style attractions. After spending some time enjoying the amusements, you can take a stroll along the boardwalk and people-watch, grab a snack, and watch the waves crash along the shore.
Even if you visit Coney Island during the off-season, it’s a nice place to go, especially if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
5. American Museum of Natural History, one of the best museums in NYC for kids
Without a doubt, one of the best indoor children’s activities in Manhattan is visiting the American Museum of Natural History. This is one of the best museums in NYC, and if you’re a resident of New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut, admission is pay-what-you-wish.
That said, purchasing a ticket to this museum is totally worth it since you can easily spend hours here perusing the collection. The museum’s collection appeals to visitors of all ages, and there are plenty of exhibits and attractions for the kids.
Among its offerings, the museum has the largest collection of dinosaur fossils in the world, a mineral hall with rare gems, an earth and space center with a planetarium, and a theater. So, if you’re looking for something to do in NYC as a family when it rains or snows, put this museum at the top of your list!
6. Visit American Dream Mall, an exciting thing to do in New York City with kids
Another thing to do as a family in NYC is to visit American Dream Mall. This is a good option if the weather is bad, or you want to get out of the city center for a bit. It’s in East Rutherford, New Jersey, about 30 minutes from Manhattan.
The American Dream Mall is a shopping and entertainment complex, so it appeals to kids and adults. Here, you can shop at over 400 stores, eat at over 100 restaurants and cafes, and see dozens of pop-up art installations and museums.
Among the top attractions here are the Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park, the DreamWorks Indoor Water Park, and the LEGOLAND Discovery Center, which is perfect for families with young children. There are other family activities like movies, blacklight mini-golf, Angry Birds mini-golf, indoor ice skating, a Mirror Maze, indoor skiing, bowling, and rock climbing.
Moreover, the TiLT Museum is a fun thing to do with teenagers in NYC, so you can find something for everyone at this huge complex.
7. Superheroes of New York walking tour, a fun family activity in NYC
If the kids are old enough, an NYC walking tour can be a fun thing to do in New York City as a family. In particular, this 2-hour guided tour is sure to delight children and adults alike since it focuses on the sites in several hit superhero movies and comics. Plus, it’s included in the New York Pass.
Superman fans can see the spot where Christopher Reeves first used his power of flight in NYC as one of the greatest heroes of all time. Also, if you love the Avengers, you can pass by different landmarks that made it into the Marvel film series.
Your tour guide will take you to other iconic places like the Daily News building, the Green Goblin’s apartment, and popular hangout spots for comic creators and artists. A New York family tour like this can be a great way to get some exercise, see several famous landmarks, and learn something new, all in one, so I highly recommend it!
8. SPYSCAPE, another cool place to visit in NYC with kids
I already mentioned the American Museum of Natural History, one of the best museums in NYC. Another interactive exhibit is SPYSCAPE, an immersive world of spy gadgets, secret codes, and physical and mental challenges. It’s definitely one of the top family activities in New York, especially if your kids need to release some energy!
SPYSCAPE will make your kids feel like they’re working as special operations agents as they figure out different spy devices, navigate laser tunnels, and interrogate suspects. While it’s a contemporary museum, SPYSCAPE is different because it was created with the help of psychologists and a former head of British Intelligence.
Participants can take a specially-designed profiling test to determine which spy roles and tasks best suit their personality and skills. Then, they can learn the relevant techniques and tools as they go through the different challenges at SPYSCAPE. It’s one of the best NYC attractions for families, so I recommend purchasing your ticket in advance.
9. Go to the Color Factory, a unique thing to do in New York City with kids
Some of the best children’s activities in Manhattan are those that you can do at any age, and the Color Factory is one of those!
The Color Factory is an art installation and experience where you can explore the different exhibits and insert yourself into the story. The entire location is a storytelling collaboration between artists, institutions, non-profits, and brands using color, materials, shapes, and other design elements. Each room is carefully curated, so bring your camera!
All of the exhibits are self-guided, and while most invite you to touch different objects, others ask you to listen to different sounds, so it’s best to supervise your kids as they go through.
10. Madame Tussauds, one of the best family attractions in NYC
Among the top 10 things to do in New York with family, one of the best is Madame Tussauds. Each Madame Tussauds attraction is unique, so if you haven’t been to the NYC one yet, I recommend it.
Here, you can see over 200 expertly-crafted wax figures resembling famous movie stars, athletes, and musicians like Taylor Swift, the Kardashians, Madonna, Brad Pitt, and Lady Gaga. I promise you that some of these figures will have you doing a double-take! Plus, Madame Tussauds is in Times Square, so you’ll be close to lots of other great things to do in NYC.
11. Dyker Heights, the best thing to do for Christmas in NYC
If you’re visiting New York at Christmastime, you’re in for a treat because there are all kinds of holiday events and activities going on. One of the most popular holiday attractions is the Dyker Heights Christmas lights tour in Brooklyn.
During this time of year, the neighborhood is adorned with dazzling lights and illuminated Christmas displays, which look amazing against the backdrop of residential homes. The 3.5-hour guided tour includes a lively commentary about the tradition of putting up Christmas lights in Dyker Heights, as well as a chance to meet some of the homeowners. This way, you won’t miss any of the beautiful displays!
Without a doubt, this is one of the best things to do as a family in NYC during the holiday season, and it’s included in the New York Pass.
12. Museum of Ice Cream, an unusual place to see in New York City with family
The idea of a museum dedicated to dessert may seem like a child’s dream come true, but it actually exists! The Museum of Ice Cream in Manhattan is one family activity in NYC that everyone will love.
As you explore the imaginative galleries and installations, you can enjoy some delicious treats. Plus, the interactive exhibits include a sprinkle pool, giant slide, and other walk-through experiences, so it’s a true delight.
The Museum of Ice Cream is what’s known as a “selfie museum,” so it’s a good place to go if you’re visiting NYC with a teenager. While you capture some whimsical photos, you’ll create sweet memories, so don’t forget to reserve a ticket here.
13. Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, another fun place to go in NYC with kids
The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is another interesting museum in NYC that you can visit as a family. Located along the Hudson River, the museum is a collection of ships that showcase the city’s military and maritime history.
Among the ships on display are the USS Intrepid, which was a famed aircraft carrier; the USS Growler cruise missile submarine; and the Space Shuttle Enterprise. You can also see a supersonic reconnaissance plane, a recreation of a World War I biplane, and exhibits from NASA, the CIA, and different branches of the U.S. military.
If your kids are into ships, they’ll love exploring the decks of the USS Intrepid, including the hangar, the flight deck, and the gallery deck. It’s a great family attraction in New York rain or shine, so be sure to check it out.
14. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge, a free thing to do in New York City as a family
No matter your age, you’ll love seeing the Brooklyn Bridge, as it’s one of the best free things to do in NYC. This iconic landmark is over 130 years old and offers lovely views of the city and the East River. The Brooklyn Bridge stretches 6,000 feet across, so walking it is quite an experience. There are separate lanes for pedestrians, bike riders, and vehicles, so you can choose how you’d like to cross.
In addition to walking the length of the bridge, you can also check out Brooklyn Bridge Park, an 85-acre park with plenty of fun activities for families in NYC. Here, you’ll find landscaped lawns, scenic lookouts, playgrounds, waterfront promenades, and food stalls.
Other popular spots at the park include Jane’s Carousel and DUMBO Boulders, a rock-climbing space. The park also hosts family events in NY, like free stargazing, festivals, and theater performances.
15. Visit the Children’s Museum of the Arts & other NYC museums for kids
Last but not least, the Children’s Museum of the Arts is another top NYC attraction for families with kids. Here, they can learn from teaching artists how to create works of art through drawing, sculpture, sound, stop-motion, and textiles. The museum also has a rotating roster of exhibitions and installations such as murals, photographs, and sketches.
If you’re looking for other kid-friendly museums and attractions in the city, check out the Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM) or the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling. CMOM in the Upper West Side engages kids through interactive and immersive exhibits and activities that spark their creativity. Along with creating their own works of art, they can learn about music, science, technology, and history.
Moreover, the Sugar Hill Museum in Manhattan lets kids explore books, stories, art, and their own imaginations. Along with hands-on activities, they can listen to talented storytellers and look through multimedia exhibitions and installations.
Best hotels in NYC for families with kids
Since there is so much family fun in New York City, I suggest staying overnight so you can take advantage of everything. These are my top recommendations for where to sleep in NYC if you’re traveling with kids:
- TRYP by Wyndham Times Square South has nice family rooms so everyone can sleep comfortably.
- Sohotel is another great option that’s close to family attractions in New York, like the Children’s Museum of the Arts.
You can find more hotels and accommodations for families in our guide on where to stay in NYC.
That’s it from me! Now you have 15 awesome things to do in NYC with kids, so there’s no way they’ll be saying “I’m bored” during your trip! To make things even easier, you can download this NYC tourist map with all the New York family attractions and hotels I mentioned.
If you have any questions or you’d like to share your New York family vacation ideas, leave me a comment below. Have a safe trip!